Max Verstappen was the fastest man around the streets of Singapore as day turned to night, affirming Red Bull Racing’s competitiveness this weekend, having topped both Free Practice 1 and 2 courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen’s time of a 1:41.829 was enough to beat Scuderia Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel by a fraction under a tenth of a second, with Lewis Hamilton showing promising speed for Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, seven-hundredths away from his main championship rival Vettel.
Fernando Alonso continued his fine showing so far this weekend in a rare good weekend for the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team, a late dash leaving him in fourth at session’s end.
His Belgian team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne occupied fifth, ensuring that both McLaren’s sat just sixth-tenths away from pacesetter Verstappen.
Verstappen with late worries
However, the hour did present a new problem for the Dutchman, forced to crawl back to the pits late in the session due to a gearbox with a mind of its own, shifting up when it pleased – thought to be due to a signalling problem at the Anderson Bridge, although he did get back out on track for one more run before the chequered flag fell.
The perilously close walls caused more problems up and down the field, Vettel giving the wall a fair tap at the exit of Turn 21, but it didn’t deter him from setting the early pace on the ultra-soft tyres. Lance Stroll also sported some extra yellow paint on his right-rear tyre, hitting the same spot as the German with lesser force.
Red flag sees late charges
At the halfway point of the session, Marcus Ericsson pushed a little too hard, the rear of his Sauber drifting away at the slow speed right hander under the grandstand, the impact with the barrier enough to shatter his rear wing and bring out the red flag whilst the debris was cleared.
After a delay of ten minutes, the times started to tumble. Vettel reassumed top spot from the Red Bulls with a 1:41.919s. Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas could only follow in seventh and fifth respectively, Mercedes still struggling for outright pace, Kimi Räikkönen splitting the pair in the second Ferrari.
Vettel’s second stint at the top didn’t last long despite an improvement on his time, Verstappen on a late charge with the fourth fastest time of the weekend thus far, while their was further drama for Red Bull, as Ricciardo knocked the front-right corner on the exit wall of Turn ten.
Nico Hülkenberg put in a strong showing for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, ending up in seventh ahead of the two Finns Bottas and Räikkönen, while Hülkenberg’s former team-mate at the Sahara Force India F1 Team, Sergio Pérez, edged into the top ten ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was the lead Scuderia Toro Rosso driver in twelfth, just ahead of Jolyon Palmer, the driver he will replace at Renault in 2018, and team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was fourteenth. Palmer in particularly should be worried about the gap to his current team-mate, with Hülkenberg more than eight-tenths of a second ahead.
Both the Williams Martini Racing and Haas F1 Teams appear to be struggling this weekend, with Felipe Massa the best of the quartet for the former team ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while their respective team-mates Stroll and Romain Grosjean followed behind, with only the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein behind them.
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